Michael, an alien teenager from the television series, Roswell, said it best when he said, “There is no such thing as normal.” Right from the start of my life I was a unique kid. Sure, I was born female and I dreamed of becoming Rainbow Brite when I grew up, but I also loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, didn’t play with dolls and hated dresses with a passion. I should have known I’d “end up” under the rainbow. My favorite color has always been The Rainbow, after all.
The trip to the department store for my first bra was an awkward experience. I saw no need for this uncomfortable THING that put me in a category where I could get pregnant and have all the physical trappings that went with being a woman. Um, no thanks. I said I didn’t want a bra, didn’t want boobs, but neither did I want something dangling between my legs, if I’d been given a choice. How do you comfortably wear pants with a penis? That thing would get in the way, as far as I could tell, and embarrass the hell out of you if you got hard in public. I definitely didn’t need any of those things.
When I told my mom and my best friend that I didn’t want to be either a girl or a boy they didn’t understand. And if they couldn’t understand, how could anyone else? I didn’t seem to have a choice about getting a bra, so we settled on sports bras, though my mother was unhappy about it. I figured I didn’t have a choice about being a girl in general either, so I let the subject drop and didn’t revisit it for nearly twenty years.
When asking for my gender, most websites and printed forms don’t give any options outside the binary male and female. You don’t even get the option to opt out. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. The least they could do is let me not answer the question. But they don’t. Yet, when registering for GLSEN’s (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) Day of Silence just a few years ago, I found they had a long list of genders and “androgynous” was included. I prefer the term “gender neutral” but they mean the same thing. I’d thought I was the only one in the world for so long I figured I was just a woman wanting something I couldn’t have. It was nice to know there had to be other people out there like me for GLSEN to include that option on their website.
Even after finding the gender list, I still wondered if there was something a bit wrong with me for awhile. Eventually my mind settled, though it was a long time in coming, and then I couldn’t not think about how I was outside the gender binary and no one knew it. I would think hard about it so much I thought my head would explode. But to tell someone about it was a frightening idea because, a) how do you explain something like being gender neutral? and b) if I said something to someone, that meant it was true and I couldn’t take it back. That being said, I came out online under my penname first. It was a huge decision, not knowing how anyone would react, and still feeling alone in the fact that I didn’t know anyone else who identified the same way. When no one questioned it, I was reassured. The next step was telling family and friends, which didn’t happen right away, or very easily.
Coming out is never easy. I spent months agonizing over who needed to know first and my aunt was pretty high on the list as well as one of my gay friends. I wasn’t sure where my parents fell on the list, and I was pretty sure my immediate colleague at work needed to know. When I marched in the pride parade last June for work, my aunt surprisingly came out in support of me, thinking that because of my clothing choices and short hair I must be a lesbian. (I get that a lot.) She was the first person in my family to officially acknowledge that I wasn’t in the majority, out loud, and I still couldn’t tell her the truth, but I knew I couldn’t let her go on forever without knowing.
I told one of my best gay friends first and was nervous as hell. I knew he would understand a little bit of what I was going through and I wanted that reassurance my first time saying something. I’m sure I shocked him a bit, but he was great and took it in stride. His first question, after asking if my closet now had room for more clothes, was to ask what my pronoun preference was. This was another reason I hadn’t wanted to tell anyone for awhile. There is no set of gender neutral pronouns in the English language. In place of those, many people use the pronouns created by author, Mary Gentle, for her fantasy novel Golden Witchbreed written in 1985. Even those are often spelled in many different ways. I thought I would wait until something was finally settled on, but that might not happen until I’m 90 and dying, and waiting that long makes no sense. For now, I’m staying with the pronouns I was born with, even if I don’t like them much. It’s easier than explaining to the world why they need to refer to me by a set of words they’re likely to forget easily.
Before telling someone, I’ve found it helps to read something inspirational. It gives you something to talk about, to introduce your topic of conversation. When I told my parents, I’d just read the chapter about transgendered kids in the book Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon. Those young kids were so inspirational to me, I thought, if they could do it, so could I. When I told my coworker, I had just finished reading Beautiful Music For Ugly Children, a novel for teens by Kirstin Cronn-Mills. This is the story of a transgendered teen boy who wants to become a radio DJ. When I was in middle school, I wanted to be a DJ when I grew up. It didn’t happen, but I still dream about it, so that novel really hit home for me, and gave me the strength to tell my friend and coworker the truth. And when I told my gay best friend, I bought him dinner. I forced myself to do something somewhat out of the ordinary so that I couldn’t back out and change my mind. And telling him gave me the strength to sit down and write an email to my aunt.
I’m considering wearing chest binders these days and though I came out later in my life than I’d have liked, I’m feeling much better for having done so.
I don’t fit the norm people think of when they see me. I get called Miss, Ma’am, and even Sir on occasion, at work. No one knows what to make of me and that actually makes me smile. Sometimes even the label I gave myself doesn’t enter my brain. For the most part, I’m just me, unique in a million different ways. I have a record collection, a shot glass collection (though I don’t drink), I read and write M/M Romance novels, dream of owning a Greyhound someday, wish there was a horse in my future too, and yes, I wear the same kind of combat boots worn by Navy SEALs every day. In short, I’m just me.
Jordan Sophia Lombard